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One thought on “What’s Happening with Competency-Based Transcripts and Rethinking College Admissions in the United States

    Can we come up with a more common way of describing “the focus on skills instead of grades” without using the words “proficiency” or “competency”?

    I’m a test prep tutor. When I read articles like this, I want to ask parents and students, “Do you want to get a higher test score or do you want to compete with kids at High Tech High in California?” Students at High Tech High (San Diego) and New Tech High in Northern California put together free websites to store and display their school work. Have you seen one of these portfolios? is a four page summary of a student’s dream to becaome an occupational therapist. is a student’s collection of book reports and projects. Both approaches have value (the first is a summary, the second demonstrates persistence and focus)

    As a test prep tutor, I am preparing kids for only a portion of their journey… academic results (GPA) and test scores are two wheels on their vehicle. A digital portfolio adds a motor to their bicycle. You can learn more about the Free Website Project (which summarizes the tips that I learned from students at High Tech High) at and

    I highly recommend INACOL’s resources … I have shown excerpts from some of their reports to some mature students in my high school and those kids ‘get it.” Competency is not the words they use. They say, “I gotta show what I can do.” Can we come up with a name for this approach that does not use proficient or competent, proficiency or competency? How about “a focus on skills” and “micro badges like the boy scouts and girl scouts” … perhaps “students earn badges when they have learned and demonstrated a skill.” …. even saying “We use PROJECT-BASED LEARNING in our school” is not how non-teachers (real people, like my grandmother) speak. “That school teaches with projects.” (not “PBL” or other short cuts… almost any descriptor with “-based” can be re-written for the general public).

    How about this: “The no-grades transcript is a focus on skills, and students learn through building projects that earn academic credit in several subjects like math, history, science and essay writing.”

    Those are phrases that my grandmother would understand.

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